The really proper way of showing the Earth is on a globe

The result has been the development of an endless variety of projections, each of which tries to show on a plane surface that portion of the globe which it aims to represent, with a minimum of distortion for one particular purpose, or with a compromise which has some errors everywhere, but a minimum all told. Projections can be made which show all areas proportional to their size, but the shapes look very queer indeed. On the other hand Mercator's well-known projection has reasonable shapes, but because the longitudes are drawn parallel to one another, instead of converging at the poles, Greenland comes out looking as large as the whole of North America, and all the other polar regions are similarly enlarged.

The really proper way of showing the Earth is on a globe, the only source of sound geographical ideas. Whenever a globe and a map disagree, the award for accuracy must go to the globe every time. Unfortunately, like all things, globes suffer from tradition. Their purpose is to show the form and arrangement of the Earth, to serve as an index to maps of the continents, which in turn serve as indexes to maps of countries. The amount of information put on a globe should be limited to what can be read and followed easily, else they defeat their own purposes. All else should be eliminated.

Above all there is no place on a terrestrial globe for astronomical features. The signs of the zodiac, often put on the stands, are meaningless. The ecliptic is hopelessly out of place. It is no more in the north of India, where custom has it, than in Mexico, and the same might be said of the figure-8-shaped "analemma" which represents the "Equation of Time." If the barren wastes of the Pacific Ocean offend the aesthetic souls of the globe makers, they might just as well put in the lost continents of Atlantis or Mu. Vague as these districts are, they have a great deal more meaning than has the lost continent of Analemma plumped down in the middle of the Pacific. One of these days some poor sea-struck lad will run away to find it, and no one but the globe makers will be to blame.

A plane map may have many shapes and the form that it takes depends usually upon the subject matter chosen, and the area to be covered; upon them depends the projection to be used. Topographic maps, which show elevations, are usually of such small areas that the type of projection is not important, except where a number of them have to be arranged so that they can be mounted on a single sheet. Even that would not be difficult were it not for the general requirement that outlines must be rectangular.

A map is a representation of a portion of a sphere on a plane surface. A so-called grid is usually laid out first. It may be set by "projection," hence its name, or it may be laid out according to any preconceived idea of the map maker that this particular projection will illustrate his point better than any other.

Sometimes the projection is so complicated from the requirement that even the outlines of the continents cannot be shown on it. One of these was produced a few years ago by the Royal Geographical Society. It was called a "Reverse Azimuth" Map, and its purpose was to enable anyone with a directional radio to turn his aerial until it pointed to the Rugby broadcasting station in England. The distortion was so terrific that nothing on the map looked like anything. It might just as well have been a portrait of the other side of the Moon, as a map of the Earth. However it was not hard to use. Knowledge of the latitude and longitude of one's own radio was required; from these we could determine the direction to which the aerial should be pointed. I worked it out but, having a certain distrust of this villainous appearing map, I took the trouble to write my finding to the Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society, who informed me by return mail that the bearing was correct!

Certain projections have marked advantages. An old favorite commonly used on astrolabes was the stereographic in which all circles on the sphere appear as circles on the projection. It was made by taking a point on the surface of the opposite hemisphere as the point of projection.

The gnomonic projection has the advantage that all great circles (that is circles which bisect the sphere, like the equator or meridians) are shown as straight lines. These maps give directly the shortest distances between two ports, and that is the line which steamers follow, unless forced out by intervening land or danger from icebergs. It is just because the great circle is the shortest route between any two ports on a sphere, that steamers run the hazards they do, from northern weather and icebergs. Washington and Pekin are on almost the same latitude, but the shortest path between them lies not along the fortieth parallel as it would look from Mercator's projection but along the great circle which the Lindberghs took when they flew via the Arctic in search of the Orient. In the Southern Hemisphere ships must start out by heading to the south, and in the Northern Hemisphere they must head to the north if they wish the shortest routes. All this is shown clearly on the gnomonic projection. The constant compass direction is circuitous, and would tend all the time to form a spiral going around one of the poles unless the course be due north or south or east or west.

Mercator's projection has its fame, because it was one of the earliest devices used, and it still has merit for navigation. The course between two near-by points can be taken off readily with a parallel ruler, so most harbor maps are made with Mercator's projection. It can also show the whole world unbroken into hemispheres, and parts of the world can be repeated at each end. With this arrangement, journeys across both the Atlantic and Pacific can be planned on the same map. Of course there is rank favoritism at the poles, but a trained eye can put the arctic zones back to the small area where they belong, and the "conventional signs," which the snark hunters so scorned, might have been of some use even to them, for like most men who set out with a blank, their griefs came later:

This was charming, no doubt: but they shortly found out
That the Captain they trusted so well
Had only one notion for crossing the ocean,
And that was to tingle his bell.

But the principal failing occurred in the sailing,
And the Bellman, perplexed and distressed,
Said he had hoped, at least, when the wind blew due east,
That the ship would not travel due west!

A few of the "merely conventional signs" are not out of place for snark hunters or for anyone else.

Among the Arabs too there were remarkable travelers

Among the Arabs too there were remarkable travelers. Their first visits to Cathay worked wonders on the fruitful imagination of Bagdad, and the result was Sinbad the Sailor, many of whose best stories were repeated in the European travel books of the same day. The required pilgrimage to Mecca gave Arabs a taste for wandering, and they possessed the carefree hearts with which all nomads must be born.

The greatest of them all, Ibn Batuta, was completely without a sense of responsibility. His wanderings surpassed even Marco Polo's in extent. Whenever a Rajah of India grew tired of bestowing favors, Ibn went to China. Whenever the Emperor of China scorned him, he went back again. His real home was in Tangiers, but he managed to make a home for himself, complete with wives, wherever he went. When the Black Death finally drove him back to northern Africa, he merely made Tangiers a base for further explorations. Then he was off again, across the Sahara this time, where he reported that houses were really built of rock salt and roofed with camel skin as Herodotus had told. Thence south to Timbuctoo and across the Niger (which he mistook for the Nile) and finally into the Sudan. When he returned he dictated his travels by royal command; but that was one of the Arab documents which the Europeans never took the trouble to translate until the nineteenth century; and the light which might have been thrown on the dark continent by 1400, remained unguessed.

Long before Columbus, the theory of the spherical Earth was generally accepted among scientific people. Roger Bacon had brought the notion back to life. All the great philosophers had fought for it. Even Sir John Mandeville, who was the Baron Münchausen of the fourteenth century, had added his argument.

Mandeville's argument was a characteristically weird tale. He said that he had often heard in his youth how a man had set forth to search the world; how he had gone so far by land and sea that at length he had come to an island where he heard his own language used, wherefor he had great marvel. "But I say that he had gone so long that now he was come again unto his own marshes, and if he had passed farther he would have found his own land. But he turned again from thence, and went back as he had come."

In other words the poor traveler had voyaged east from England until he came to Ireland, and been so amazed that he turned and went west again--surely the most terrific penalty that belief in a flat Earth ever had to pay. But Mandeville was a romancer, and by the middle of the fourteenth century most travelers believed in a spherical world. Ptolemy's works were translated early in the fifteenth, and in 1492, the year that Columbus set forth, Martin Behaim of Nuremburg produced a terrestrial globe.

To Christopher Columbus belongs the credit of daring. He risked his life, all he possessed and all he could borrow to prove his point, where the philosophers of his day had been content with their theories. But his voyages were the result of the knowledge which they had accumulated. With Ptolemy he believed that there was less water than land on the globe, and therefore he telescoped together the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and set forth to cross a small body of water in a few days. Undoubtedly the tales of hardships to be endured in Siberia had scared him off that continent. But the stories of the wonders of Cathay enticed him on. It was no accident, but a genuine sequence of cause and effect, that he took with him a copy of the travels of Marco Polo. But it was an accident, resulting from too scant knowledge, that he took with him also a letter from Ferdinand and Isabella introducing him to Kubla Khan, though that gentleman had been dead for over two hundred years!

After the efforts of Columbus, exploration received a new impetus; and the longed-for trade in spices added a commercial incentive. The names of the explorers are so well known that we need but mention them here; there was Vasco de Gamma, who rounded the Cape of Good Hope; John Cabot, who rediscovered Newfoundland; Balboa, who first saw the Pacific "from a peak in Darien"; Cortez, who conquered Mexico; Magellan, who rounded South America and whose boat crossed the Pacific; and Drake, who sailed around the world, passing on his way up the coast of California where he missed the sight of San Francisco Bay because the Golden Gate was buried in fog.

These men and the others of their kind made the new geography. No one could argue now as to whether the world was a sphere or a flat disc. The argumentative stage had passed.

There was still some doubt however as to the actual shape of the world. The author of one novel makes a publisher reply to a young writer on philosophy:

"Of course you were wrong in saying there is no world. The world must exist to have the shape of a pear; and that the world is shaped like a pear, and not like an apple as the fools of Oxford say, I have satisfactorily proved in my book. Now if there were no world, what would become of my system?"

With these new explorations, ideas had to fit in with the known geography. It was no longer possible to treat continents as the giant Procrustes had treated visitors to his bed, cutting them off if they were too long to fit, and stretching them out if they were too short. The great problem now was to make the map fit the continents, and serious complications had arisen, complications which had been forgotten since the days of Ptolemy. The problem was to show spherical surfaces on a plane map.

All flat maps have some distortion. If the map be of a limited area, a few miles square, the distortion is so small that it may be neglected safely, but when the map shows large areas, a continent or a hemisphere, the distortion must be dealt with.

About 1260, two Venetian merchants, brothers, traveling east of Constantinople

Meanwhile in the Far East there had been a tremendous conquest of which Europe for a time knew nothing. Sweeping over Asia the Mongol hordes of Genghis Khan had captured everything before them, boasting that their horses could run without stumbling where cities had stood. The Mongols were barbarous, but they had the ability to absorb culture swiftly. By their third generation the conquerors were building China up to a cultural height never seen before. For the first time in history the whole of Asia, with the exception of a few Persian and Arabian territories, submitted to a single king. As a result the trade routes were open.

About 1260, two Venetian merchants, brothers, traveling east of Constantinople chanced to fall in with a group of envoys who had been to Persia on a mission from the great Kubla Khan. They were easily persuaded to join in the adventure, for they had heard rumors of Cathay and were eager to see the wonders. Kubla Khan received them well. He listened to their doctrine of Christianity and thought that he saw in it a new method for subduing his people. Therefore he sent back the two merchants, begging them to ask the Pope for two hundred men of letters to help in their mission. So the two brothers returned to Venice; but the only person whom they could persuade to join their expedition was the young son of one of them. His name was Marco Polo.

Many years afterward in a prison in Genoa, Marco Polo met a literary hack of the more respectable variety, a man who was used to abridging and recasting the Arthurian romances which were then so much in vogue, and this man persuaded Marco Polo to dictate his adventures. The imprisonment was only a year long, but it profited the world with a tale which was not duplicated for six hundred years; and the sights which young Marco Polo had seen as he crossed the desert were as vivid to the man of fifty as they had been to the boy of seventeen. It was not alone his knowledge of geography and his flair for languages which gave him more knowledge than any other European of his time; but it was his intimate acquaintance with the innermost workings of the Chinese Empire. Had he not been taken into favor by Kubla Khan? Had he not gone on expeditions to distant provinces and come back successful? Had not he--young Marco Polo--been sole governor of the great city of Yang Chow?

It was a wonderful tale, a tale that never ceases to be wonderful and remains modest to the end. Fortunately for the world Marco Polo had the spirit of an anthropologist. For the wisdom and valor of Marco Polo, you must hunt in the Chinese annals; his own story tells only of the Chinese, their methods of trading, their money, their customs. His account was too true to be believed. The priest who ministered to Marco Polo when he was over seventy and in his last illness asked him to confess his exaggerations. And Marco Polo, dying, said, "I have not told the half of what I have seen."

Slowly the maps began to indicate his travels, and other men began to follow where he had gone. The travelogues of these wanderers are far more exciting than any modern adventure story. They have all been gathered and edited by Sir Henry Yule under the title of Cathay and the Way Thither. No doubt the editor's humor and sympathy add much to their charm, but in themselves they might be described as was another far more fanciful tale, "Truth is stranger than fiction, but these are stranger than both."

Even before Marco Polo started there had been a general feeling among the prelates of Europe that the Tartars were anxious to be converted to Christianity--a conviction which arose from nothing but desire and tried belatedly to find roots for itself in the fabulous story of Prester John. Nevertheless from time to time we find records of some lone prelate rounding the Indian coast, stopping at Sumatra (where one man at least really thought he had found Paradise) and reaching Cathay. Or a group will set out to cross the desert, and one or two arrive, worn out by their travels, but steadily pursuing their mission, and sending letters back to the Pope for help. They must have been extraordinary men to set out as they did, and such valor is not without its effect in any land. The fact is, that having started on a completely false assumption, they then proceeded to make it true. A surprising number of Mongols were converted to the Christian faith.

On one occasion, about 1328, the last of the Christian missionaries in Cathay died. Then the Khan himself undertook to send an embassy to the Pope, "Lord of the Christians where the Sun goes down," requesting that there be frequent messengers of exchange and Friars sent to the desolate Christian flock. The return embassy was received with great kindness and courtesy. The Khan lavished his wealth upon them, so that the impecunious Europeans were driven to hard mental arithmetic before they could write home how much their host must have spent in their behalf.

It is good to record that there is not one of the genuine travelers of this period who does not tell the same tale of the Chinese. They are full of praise for the Chinese arts (surpassed by none--no not one nation--throughout the world), and for the amazing civilization, where traveling was safe even for a foreigner, because criminals were fingerprinted, the rogue's gallery sketched, and no unjust man ever escaped.

No wonder adventurers wanted to go to China! By the middle of the fourteenth century one man had made a sort of tourist guidebook to Cathay, listing the towns and the methods of selling goods, and telling just how the customs man should be tipped, what sort of a beard a traveler should wear, and recommending the kinds of guides (and the kinds of women) who would make the most suitable traveling companions.

Still in Europe, the rumors were uncertain. One or two of these men mention Marco Polo as the greatest of them all, but most had never heard of him. It was a long time before his fame spread, and two hundred years had passed before his tales were really believed. In the meantime the Mongol Empire had fallen, the trade routes were closed, and the few missionaries sent out from Avignon disappeared forever into darkness. The only possible way to China was through the west.

Medieval Europe entertained more thirst for knowledge than is usually credited to them

Medieval Europe entertained more thirst for knowledge than is usually credited to them, but they lacked the scientific background with which knowledge is correlated. Sagas were sung of the exploits, and a few returning Gaels spread the news through Ireland and Scotland that there was land beyond the ocean--that they were not the farthest west of peoples after all. But any results which might have come from the Norse expeditions were halted by one of the curious accidents which from time to time have helped to change the whole course of history.

In 1047, Adam of Bremen, one of the genuine geographers of his time, took the trouble to visit Denmark in order that he might inquire from the king of that country about the strange rumors drifting over Europe. The king told him almost exactly what Leif Ericson had said, and expatiated upon the beauties of Wineland, adding that the description was not fabulous, but a trustworthy account. For some reason, when Adam came to write down the report he located the new country beyond the Arctic, "all those regions which are beyond are filled with insupportable ice and boundless gloom." No wonder medieval Europe was unimpressed!

The mistake was the more unfortunate because already Europe was suffering from overpopulation. Younger sons, crowded from their ancestral estates, needed room in which to show their valor. The Northerners, under the same conditions had sailed west; but the southern Europeans turned their eyes in a different direction, and with Bibles as guidebooks and banners fluttering over their heads began to march eastward on a Holy War. They accomplished little, but for the first time in centuries, the scholars were given a chance to lay their hands on Arabic books.

Maps were in great demand during the crusades. Faulty, drawn with too much logic and too little knowledge, the maps of the crusaders were less dependable than any since Babylonian times. No doubt it looked fine when you started out from home to show a map drawn like a circle, with the river Hellespont bisecting the whole, and a radius at right angles for the Mediterranean. All you had to do was travel southward, past the big castle in the illustration, and then take a boat along the Mediterranean, sailing due east until you reached the Holy Land, which was (quite properly) in the center of the world. There were no islands, no reefs to get in your way.

Only when you had started, things were somehow quite different. The islands were plentiful and, if you followed along the coast, you found that it was far from straight. There were mountains. Entirely new maps had to be designed, and these were as complicated as the others were simple. By the third crusade the compass points were marked all over the maps, each sending out radial lines. Directions between any two places could be found by moving a parallel ruler from the line joining them to the nearest central compass point. They were frightfully complicated but a big improvement.

The change was coming. William of Wykeham, the founder of Winchester College and of New College Oxford, directed the Fellows and Scholars of the latter to occupy themselves during the long winter evenings with "singing or reciting poetry, or with the chronicles of the different kingdoms, or with the wonders of the world." The Renaissance was in the air.

The Universities furnished the nucleus from which the Renaissance grew. They were not monasteries, but were founded because the monastic environment was unsuitable to the new methods of teaching and the new source of material which began to seep in from Arabia. Oxford claims its foundation from a bright point in the darkest period of all--869--the reign of Alfred the Great, but the additional colleges came after the first introduction of new thought. When John de Balliol (who claimed to be King of Scotland until Robert the Bruce outwitted him) insulted an English Bishop in 1263, the King of England demanded as penalty the foundation of a college at Oxford. It was not the demand of a king who despised education. In France a little after 1100 so many scholars stormed the walls, that the great and persuasive Abélard was forced to move his school to the open air of Mount Saint Genevieve because there was no hall in Paris large enough to hold his pupils.

The first public school in England was Winchester, founded by William of Wykeham in 1393. The name "public" had and still has a very different meaning in England from the popular use in America. It signified a school which was not a church school and not run for profit. A "public school" in England receives no support from taxation and regular rates have to be paid for attending. At Winchester all "men" must board at the school--a necessary precautions in my time when, most of the year, classes started at 7:00 A.M.

Education was being freed from the control of the church (and this important development was due to a man who was later Bishop of Winchester). It flourished in the freer atmosphere and paved the way for the explorations and developments of succeeding centuries.

Ptolemy, the greatest astronomer of Alexandria

The wrong theory was endorsed by Ptolemy, the greatest astronomer of Alexandria, and the only geographer whose work was familiar to Europeans in the late Middle Ages. In 150 A. D., Ptolemy collected all the geographical reports ever written and summed them up in one massive work. He devised the five zones which are now the tropics, the temperate and the arctic zones. For his prime meridian he adopted the Fortunate Islands to the west of both Europe and Africa. He had plenty of source material. Aside from scientific works and memoirs of adventurers, he had Roman strip maps at his disposal. All sorts of travelers' knickknacks had been devised, maps which unrolled at both ends so that the particular locality could be studied without undoing the whole map (a suggestion which modern makers of road maps might do well to imitate); and there were even silver traveling cups, made in the shape of milestones and adorned with a list of stations on the route between Cádiz and Rome.

All this mass of data was compiled by Ptolemy; but its correlation was--to say the least--difficult, and the quality of his map varied considerably. Britain is fairly well represented, but a minute island, isolated in the north and labelled "Scandia," seems to be all that he knew of the great northern peninsula. He had trouble with his scale too. There are sixty geographical miles to a degree, and he took fifty, a mistake which resulted in a general distortion. In spite of this, Ptolemy must be ranked as the greatest of early geographers; and by his time the ancient science of geography had reached its height.

Then, when the men of Alexandria and Rome felt that they had certain knowledge of just where in the world they stood, there came again that disconcerting rumor of another civilization almost half the world away--a civilization which was fit to rival the glory of Rome. The rumor was more insistent this time, so insistent that Ptolemy was forced to make some recognition of it on his map. You can discount travelers' tales, but it is harder to discount the travelers themselves, particularly when they bring their outlandish apparel into the heart of Rome's capital, and show their yellow faces even to the matter-of-fact merchants of the forum.

Via India they had come, ambassadors and envoys, bringing presents from the Emperor of China to Augustus, the Emperor of Rome. The armilla came with them for astronomers; the abacus came; and most important of all, silk was introduced into the western world. There can be no doubt of how eagerly the new cloth was accepted; the armilla and the abacus were interesting additions to science and mathematics--but for the sake of silk the trade routes must be kept open. Pliny and others might rave as they liked about the value of home products and the vanities of women who wanted the ends of the Earth combed for gauze dresses. To such pedagogues the women paid no attention. The silk had to be brought.

Under such circumstances all might have gone well and the trade routes opened once and for all; but as usual trade barriers arose. The Chinese said that the Persians were inferior weavers, but wanted the profits of trade. However that may be, the people of Asia Minor certainly did their best to hinder commerce, and ended, of course, by defeating their own aims. For one brief moment the two great nations faced each other across the intervening continent and held out their arms in friendly gesture. Then the Romans grew tired of paying duty, imported silkworms rather than silk, and the eagerness died.

For centuries afterward the Chinese continued their efforts undaunted; but at best they went only to Antioch or Constantinople, never to Rome; and the few embassies which reached China from the western world certainly traveled without official sanction. The ways of traveling were too hazardous.

In Chios the wonder-working worms were imported and put to feed on the native trees. The women of Rome had their silk so they were satisfied, and China became again a vague rumor, only half-believed by Roman ears.

Ptolemy, like all educated Greeks after Aristotle, had believed that the Earth was a globe; but in 320 A. D., a monk named Lacantius began denouncing all such ideas as heretical, and he literally knocked the spherical theory flat. There was no scientist left to resurrect it, and flat it remained until Roger Bacon a thousand years later puffed it up again with the newly found arguments of Aristotle.

The over-practical minds of the late Roman Empire had done their worst. If science led to no practical or comfortable gains they thought it valueless. In such an atmosphere pure science can never flourish. It had died before Rome fell, and the Dark Ages which showed the result were made to bear the blame for Roman negligence. Without astronomy geography is helpless. Only an astronomer can reckon latitudes or longitudes, gauge zones or even precise directions upon the Earth.

Yet the Middle Ages were not entirely barren of exploration. Trade continued, and the missionaries traveled; but for the most part they went in search of ecclesiastical rather than terrestrial knowledge. In 742 A. D., some missionaries from Constantinople reached China where they were described as "priests of great virtue." The Christian inscription says that they came by "observing stars and the Sun."

To the north, Christianity reached Scandinavia about the middle of the tenth century, and the king was so fired with religion that he sent the young son of Eric the Red to convert the colonies which Eric had founded in Greenland. Young Leif Ericson accordingly sailed toward his father's home, but bad weather drove him far off his course, and instead of landing in Greenland he found himself on the coast of an unknown country where "self-sown" wheat grew in abundance and the grapes for wine were plentiful.

Leif Ericson was sufficiently scientific to take back with him samples of wheat, of maple wood and of the wonderful grapes; so he sailed back to Greenland with his trophies and his stories of North America, which he named (with what sounds like unconscious irony to modern ears) "Wineland the Good." The discoveries created great excitement in Greenland and even in Scandinavia. A second expedition set forth, and four years later a third which consisted of one hundred and eighty men and women who intended to start a colony. Leif's father had named his island "Greenland" to attract colonizers; and the son seems to have followed in the father's footsteps. The new colony found the reports of self-growing wheat much overrated; the Indians had come and after three years' trial the Norse colony was too discouraged to stay longer.

What happened we do not know. The Norse colony returned home safely to Greenland but somehow, someone was lost and remained wandering about the new world. Perhaps the Gaels, so "incredibly fleet of foot," who were sent scouting on the second expedition, lost their way. Tablets, bearing tragic tales of Norse wanderings, have been found in Minnesota, and even recently in Colorado; but whether the scouts penetrated so far, or whether the Indians carried the stones about with them as souvenirs, it is hard to say.

Alexander was annexing the whole of the eastern world

About the time that Alexander was annexing the whole of the eastern world, men were becoming very much interested in the west. Over seven hundred years had passed since the Phoenicians first came to an island in the Northern Sea where there was tin to be had for the mining; but the Phoenicians had kept their secret well. They did not want their competitors to know the route to the tin-bearing islands. But the existence of England could not remain hidden from the world forever. The great traveler Pytheas of Marseilles visited it in about 300 B. C., and reported an island named Thule, six days sail to the north, where there was unbroken daylight in the summer and long winter darkness. That might refer to the Faeroe Islands, or even Iceland or Norway, we do not know; but Pytheas was the first of the really scientific travelers, and his remarks are not to be dismissed lightly. He had established a training course for astronomers, and determined a substantially correct latitude for his home town.

Soon after Pytheas, the Romans came in contact with the Carthaginians, who were the natural heirs of the Phoenicians, and from them discovered the secret. There was an island to the north, an island which bore not only tin, but pearls as well. The Gallic people had named the high mountains which separated their country from Italy, by their own word for hills, and called those mountains the "Alps." The little island received the same name, a name that meant a high white hill--and all the early travelers called it Albion--from the first view they had of it--the chalk cliffs of Dover.

The rumor of pearls, as well as his incurable habit of conquering, took Julius Caesar to that coast. The ladies of Rome were very fond of jewelry. He gave the same account of Britain that most travelers give when they spend only a few weeks in a country and return to impress the people at home: "Hopelessly primitive natives they have there--why they don't even know how wonderful our country is." As a matter of fact the people were more than moderately civilized, and if they acknowledged Phoenician and Gallic customs more than Roman, that is hardly remarkable. The Phoenicans and the Gauls had acknowledged them.

In the meantime scientific geography had progressed in Greece with great rapidity. Eratosthenes, who had all the resources of the Library of Alexandria at his command, had measured the circumference of the Earth, and drawn a map with seven parallels of latitude and seven meridians. His main parallel ran through the Cape of Saint Vincent, the Straits of Messina, the Island of Rhodes, to Issus on the Gulf of Iskanderus. His prime meridian stretched from the first Cataract on the Nile, through Alexandria to Rhodes and the city of King Byzas, which was later to be called Constantinople or Istambul. His great book was divided into three parts: a history of geography and its physical features, a mathematical treatise on the nature of the world, and a history of political and social geography.

Eratosthenes was also the first man to recognize the implications of a spherical Earth. "If it were not that the vast extent of the Atlantic sea rendered it impossible," he wrote, "one might even sail from the coast of Spain to that of India along the same parallel." More than fifteen hundred years were to pass before such an attempt was made, and even then the first man who tried to go from Spain westward to India did not believe in the vastness of the Atlantic.

Only fifty years after Eratosthenes, Hipparchus, the famous astronomer, undertook to show all the fallacies which his predecessor had committed. The latitudes, Hipparchus said, should be drawn at equal intervals, say at half an hour's difference in the length of the day; and the longitudes should be likewise regulated, preferably from observation of eclipses. The length of the degree, which Eratosthenes had computed, Hipparchus accepted without question (it was wrong), but he accused the librarian in no uncertain terms of reckoning by travelers' tales instead of science. "And as for his claim that the ocean surrounds the Earth--it makes no more sense than to say that the Red Sea is surrounded by land!"

His whole argument was just a little unfair and capricious. It was hard enough for anyone to calculate longitudes with the poor timekeepers available, without wandering over the Earth in those perilous days of sea voyages; and eclipses hardly came often enough for one man to use them exclusively for his measurements. Hipparchus had made an excellent map of the sky so he thought he know all about the business of cartography. He never tried to make a map of the Earth.

The work of Eratosthenes was for the most part copied by Strabo, who lived from 50 B. C. to 24 A. D. Strabo however rejected the idea of Thule and decided that the most northerly habitable land was Ieme ( Ireland) which he set far to the north of Britain, where some of the Irish Free-staters might well wish it set today. But in something far more important, Strabo agreed with Eratosthenes. He insisted that there was much more water than land on the globe. He was right; but perhaps it was not a pity that he was judged wrong. As usual in geography, the wrong theory led further.

In spite of his distrust of Herodotus, Aristotle was an active geographer

The incident which Herodotus does not believe, but puts in anyway, proves the point. The ship, sailing from east to west along the coast of Africa, had reached the Southern Hemisphere.

There had been other voyages of a purely exploratory nature about the same time. One expedition was sent by Darius the Great to the Indus for just the same reason that the 'Satiable Elephant's child traveled to the Limpopo--to find out what the crocodile had for breakfast--and as early as 1500 B. C., the first Queen of Egypt dispatched five ships up the Red Sea in search of tropical luxuries.

So by the time of Herodotus men had circumnavigated Africa, penetrated into Asia and heard rumors of the Arctic. The northeast they knew was populated by great hordes of nomad people, Scythians, who served as the buffoons and country yokels in comic Greek plays, and were unconquerable because they simply hitched their wagons to oxen and wandered off whenever a foe appeared. This disconcerting habit has left us without definite knowledge of who the Scythians were or where they went. It is true that they ate haggis, but the modern notion that they wore kilts, played the bagpipes, and spoke a language resembling Gaelic, seems to have no foundation in fact.

Beyond them there were desert and mountains inhabited by strange peoples--for it was from this region that the weirdest legends grew; but there was a story, passed by word of mouth along the vast stretches of Asia, that in the east, farther than any man had thought to go, there lived the "gold-bearing griffons"-the inhabitants of China. That was a story brought back by a poet named Aristeas, "but," said Herodotus, "even he did not claim to have gone further than the last of the Scythians--and he was writing poetry." That story seems to have been forgotten by the time of Alexander the Great. Perhaps Aristotle, who was Alexander's tutor, distrusted anthropologists and poets alike; if so, it seems a pity; for if only Aristotle had not entertained such a passion for accuracy, Alexander would have known that there were more worlds to conquer.

In spite of his distrust of Herodotus, Aristotle was an active geographer. He fully believed that the Earth was spherical and gave three proofs to establish his claim. First, it must be spherical because bodies tend to congregate at their common center (if he had carried this argument to its logical conclusion, he might have anticipated Newton); second, because the shadow of the Earth during eclipses of the Moon was always circular, and no body other than a sphere could throw a circular shadow at all times; and last, because no other explanation would account for the shifting range of constellations which came above the horizon as one traveled from north to south. Rate of travel was always used to measure distance, and there was no reason why it should not do well enough for a rough measurement. Pacing is still used today for topographic reconnaissances and a trained surveyor is able to measure distance by pacing, to an accuracy approaching one per cent of the distance traveled. No one who has ever read Xenophon can possibly forget his reiterated account:

'Εντευ+̑ηεν ὲΞελαύνει σταημοὺς δύο, παρασὰγγας δέκα.

"From there we marched two days travel, ten parasangs." Maps made in the eighteenth century A. D. still showed the scale of distance in "hour's journey" in addition to English, Scottish, Irish and German miles. It was a slightly dubious measurement in the old days, particularly with people like Herodotus who could not possibly add straight; but in the army of Alexander the Great there were trained "bematists" whose particular business it was to measure by pacing the distance traversed. The data acquired by these men was used by Dicaearchus of Messana, a pupil of Aristode's, to write a topography of Greece and make maps of the world.

Directions had always been given by some vaguely relative system. A place was so many days journey north of Alexandria, or south of Crete, but by the fourth century B. C., geographers began to feel the need of some more definite system. Someone had the brilliant inspiration that lines could be drawn between the places having equally long days on the summer solstice, rather as we draw contour lines between places of equal altitude--only in this case the lines would not jiggle all over the place, but would form a straight line across the section of the map. Thus were latitudes invented, and Dicaearchus of Messana seems to have been the first to use them. He was not quite correct, for his parallel of the Mediterranean was extended along the Taurus mountains in Asia Minor, and even through the Himalayas, but the idea of latitude was a great step forward in scientific geography.

The whole history of geography is a triumph for myths

The whole history of geography is a triumph for myths. America was explored by men who hunted for the Fountain of Youth, and Asia by those in search of a fabulous Prester John. No well authenticated fact ever had the power of these legends to draw men out into the hazards of unknown lands. Explorers are, by their very nature, adventurers. And how could anyone tell which tales were true and which were not? After all, the myth of Prester John was no more remarkable than the truth of Kubla Khan.

Homer had heard of the pigmies, and Hesiod had heard of another group in the opposite direction, men who lived where the Sun shone for half a year at a time but were forced to dwell in darkness between the fall and the spring. He called them "Hyperboreans"--men living "beyond the North" and Herodotus with irrefutable logic said that there must be "Hypemotians" living "beyond the South" as well.

Herodotus was the greatest of geographers in the fifth century B. C.--a time when Ionia was seething with curiosity about the world. A hundred years before, Anaximander of Miletus. had "invented" maps, and they were copied by his townsman, Hecataeus, fragments of whose work still exist. The map of Hecataeus shows the Mediterranean, the Red Sea and the Black, the Danube, the Nile, the Euphrates and the Indus; he wrote an attempt at systematic geography also, a description of the world and its inhabitants, and perhaps it was this work which fired Herodotus with his boundless enthusiasm.

Much has been said and written about the inaccuracy of Herodotus. Plutarch in a terrific diatribe took up the discussion, "de malignitate Herodoti." He said that Herodotus wrote ill-naturedly and fooled people by his good-natured style. He said that Herodotus danced away the truth. Traditions like that have persisted. Why not? The nineteenth century, reading his descriptions of tunnels and canals, laughed because Herodotus claimed to have seen them himself, and the nineteenth century knew that such things never existed. The twentieth-century archaeologists dug them up. Likewise no one with common sense could believe that men tied the tails of their sheep to little trolley cars to keep them from dragging on the ground. Perhaps not; but disbelief is the fault of common sense. The practice was carried on in central Asia till modern times.

Of course some of his stories are wild--he usually admits that. "As for the tale of Abaris who is said to have gone with his arrow all around the world, I shall pass it by in silence." Such stories were gathered in the market place, along the wharves and docks, from merchants and sailors who tried constantly to outdo one another with their tall tales. But Herodotus listened patiently, and sorted out the material afterward; he was undoubtedly one of the best listeners that the world has ever known and, if ever his curios. ity about a place overcame him, he traveled to see it himself.

His theories as to the shape of the world are a little curious; he had rejected the compass disc of his forebears, but he was still unaware of the spherical Earth; and while he knew that the continents were of unequal size, the shapes he assigned to them are rather disproportionate:

" Europe extends the entire length of the other two and for breadth will not even, I think, bear to be compared with them. As for Libya we know it to be washed on all sides by the sea except where it is attached to Asia."

He was suspicious of the wildest stories, and the too-literal interpretation of imagery--very doubtful if men who lived in mountains really had goats' feet, and he disapproved thoroughly of the story that a Scythian came to Greece and reported at home that the Greeks were all pursuers of every kind of knowledge, except the Lacedaemonians who, however, alone knew how to conversesensibly. But Herodotus wrote the stories down, whether he believed them or not, and therein---curiously enough--lies one of his chief merits.

" Necos, the King of Egypt, (on desisting from the canal which he had begun between the Nile and the Arabian Gulf) sent to sea a number of ships manned by Phoenicians, with orders to make for the Pillars of Hercules, and return to Egypt through them, and by the Mediterranean. The Phoenicians took their departure from Egypt by way of the Arabian Gulf, and so sailed into the southern ocean. When autumn came they went ashore, wherever they might happen to be, and having sown a tract of land with corn, waited until the grain was fit to cut. Having reaped it, they again set sail; and thus it came to pass that two whole years went by, and it was not till the third year that they doubled the Pillars of Hercules, and made good their voyage home. On their return, they declared--I for my part do not believe them, but perhaps others may--that in sailing round Libya they had the Sun upon their right hand."

The map makers followed the same principles as the early impressionist painters

"FOR my part," said Herodotus, "I can not but laugh when I see so many people drawing maps of the world without any reason to guide them, showing (as they do) the ocean stream running all around the Earth, and the Earth itself an exact circle as if described by a pair of compasses with Europe and Asia just the same size."

That had been the form of all early maps which made any claim to world knowledge. The neighbors of Herodotus, living where Europe and Asia met, would show the two continents the same size. The map makers followed the same principles as the early impressionist painters of the nineteenth century. They pictured a carefully drawn focal point (the place where they lived) from which everything spread out more and more vaguely until it edged into the ocean on all sides. An extant map of Mesopotamia, shows the Euphrates running through a large circular land, the whole surrounded by two concentric circles labeled "briny waters."

Sometimes the interior of these maps, or the local maps which make no claim for world geography, show knowledge which is surprisingly exact. In 3800 B. C., Sargon of Akkad in the mountains above Babylon commanded that a map be made to show the divisions of the landed property owners in order that he might draw just tribute from them. The problem of taxation arose early. Similar property maps, eighteen hundred years later in Babylon, were made for the same purpose--that was in 2000 B. C., and in Egypt the same disputes over territories arose, though most of the Egyptian maps have vanished, and the only known papyri maps are rough drawings of gold mines established in the Nubian desert about 1300 B. C.

The first recorded explorations seem to have started from the same region as the first maps, but the travelers left no charts, and they seem to have made more impression upon the people they visited than the people they left. The Assyrians have no records extant, but the Annales of Shu King are quite specific. In the year 2356 B. C., during the reign of the Emperor Yao, envoys arrived at the eastern court bringing with them as a present a tortoise whose back was inscribed with the history of the world written in "tadpole" characters; and a little later men came wearing trailing robes. The description of their costumes is the description of robes on Assyrian monuments, and the "tadpole" writing is in all probability a picturesque account of cuneiform.

During the succeeding centuries from time to time a similar account appears in the histories, on one side of the world or the other, of the strangers who came and of the goods they brought, though it is not often that such goods include a history of the world even in obscure writing. Probably these early traders went by water, since it has always been the source of communication, whereas land with its mountain ranges always served as a barrier. But however they went, no record was left, and for a very long time maps were purely local institutions.

Immediate surroundings were always well known and carefully described even among primitive peoples. Cortez on his trip through Central America used a map made on calico by a local Indian. An Eskimo drawing of a coast line, when compared with a surveyor's map, proved substantially correct. The first of all relief maps was made by the Incas of Peru in the eleventh century A. D. Early peoples living out in the open, like woodmen of today, developed amazing faculties for retaining sense of direction. One modern rodman amused himself by pointing out the direction of north from each setup of the transit, and then checking. In each case we found his errors very small.

This knowledge of immediate surroundings was necessary, and probably directions were given in the same way that boy scouts are taught to give directions today. "Follow the Euphrates until you come to Babylon. Turn south at the Ziggurat with the hanging gardens, and follow the second road to the left until you come to Ur Junction. From there you can't miss your way."

It was the merchants who brought back the most far-flung stories. There were few like Herodotus who could travel for a single reason, "because they wished to learn." At each trading post the tales circulated, were discussed, exaggerated and carried on to the next trading post. The strangest stories therefore came first to civilized ears. Homer had heard of the pigmies who live at the source of the Nile, though he wrote of nothing else west of Sicily or east of Troy. That story may have been carried to Greece by Zeus after one of his visits to the "blameless Ethiopians" for the pigmies had never heard of the white men.

Laplace's theory: Suns do not seem to break into solar systems

The greatest objection to Laplace's theory is that suns do not seem to break into solar systems, but split in two and form dual suns of more or less equal masses; and the speed of rotation of our Sun has never been sufficient to break it up at all. One of the first evidences of a coming break is a flattening shape such as Jupiter and Saturn have today. There is not a sign of it on the Sun. Small streams of gases do not form nuclei, while large streams do; and mathematically Laplace's hypothesis does not justify the formation of planets, though it does account for the suns.

To overcome these objections, T. C. Chamberlin and F. R. Moulton developed in 1900 a more probable solution which has been elaborated by Sir James Jeans and others under the title of "the tidal theory." They agreed with Laplace for the formation of nebulae, but from there on they differ and assume that our Sun came within the sphere of influence of another star or nebula as they both moved through space. Just as the Moon raises tides on both sides of the Earth, so this much larger visitor raised enormous tides on the Sun. Long arms of gaseous matter protruded until the formation began to look like the large double pinwheel in Canes Venatici.

Nuclei formed in the arms. As the visitor left the district his influence ceased but the damage he had caused remained. The protruding gases began to cool and little planets were formed. The smallest planets cooled first, the largest last. In addition there were vast numbers of tiny particles whirling around in their own highly eccentric orbits. These little scraps of matter often collided with the baby planets and added their mass. So frequent were these collisions and so great were the contributions made in this way, that the larger part of any planet is thought to be made up of these gathered in waifs. In their honor Chamberlin and Moulton call their whole hypothesis "the planetesimal theory."

Not all the tiny particles (or planetesimals) found homes in this convenient fashion. Many gathered together in the less permanent residence of comets and others are still on the loose. But there were in the beginning of our planetary systems far more than there are today. The motion of the young planets was retarded by passing through the dust, as well as by their own rapidly increasing size, so that while they started off in rather elongated ellipses, they tend to move in more and more circular fashion.

While the planets were forming, tides were caused on them by their nearest neighbors, and arms were sent out just as before. These in turn broke up, and formed a number of satellites, or condensed without breaking up and formed just one, like our Moon.

The same theory must apply throughout the universe. The solar system itself is rather complicated, so it is hardly fair to expect any theory that covers its formation to be simple. All the general rules fall down in particular cases, and the variation among the individual stars is enormous. Some, such as Antares, are so tenuous that we believe them to be composed of gases under very low pressure, while others are much denser than any materials, with which we are actually acquainted. The densest substance known on Earth is iridium, which has a specific gravity of 22.4 compared to water as 1, but that is not the reason why it is alloyed with platinum to make our fountain pen points. The faint companion of Sirius has a specific gravity of about 60,000. The only explanation of such tremendous density is that the particles of matter have been squeezed together, eliminating intervening space, in a way that has never been approached on Earth.

The extremely high temperatures noticed on some of the heavy stars, and on others too, may be the cause of this density. Star temperatures rise into millions of degrees Centigrade, where a few thousand only can be reached on Earth. In such heat, matter could exist only in its simplest forms, and it may be compacted beyond anything we know.

The solar system, in spite of its insularity and lack of connection with the outside world, is in reality part of a much greater archipelago--the Milky Way, more scientifically known as the "Galaxy." The whole group is arranged somewhat like a lens. Anyone standing inside a lens would see more glass along the long diameter than he would when looking across it. Thus the long axis gives the effect of the Milky Way from our Earth. This great circle through the heavens is composed of a multitude of stars revolving like a wheel 250,000 light years in diameter, or more properly like the horses on a race track, with the inner ones always traveling faster and arriving first back at the starting point, just as the inner planets can gallop faster than the outer ones around the Sun. The Sun (the Earth is far too small to be considered separately in this reckoning) is 40,000 light years from the center. In 230,000,000 years our solar portion completes a single circuit; but the outer ranges of this vast wheel take 530,000,000 years to revolve once around its focal point.

Outside the Galaxy are found other giant nebulae, some of them with diameters as great as our own Milky Way's. They are all more than 800,000 light years distant from us. They may be considered therefore as fairly separate and distinct systems, each one probably containing suns, planets, satellites and all the other stray bits of heavenly matter in the making.

The Copernican theory has opened limitless possibilities of space and time. We know today that we are not the center of a hollow sphere. The thought of worlds beyond worlds is more than the mind can grasp. Since the time of Copernicus and since the time of Shakespeare the universe has opened both inwardly and outwardly before our eyes; but if there is a limit to our knowledge we have not yet glimpsed its margin. In our own lifetime far stranger thoughts than any of these have been enunciated, and as strangers we must bid them welcome. There are still more things in heaven and Earth than, we, twentieth-century Horatios, have dreamt in all the far realms of our philosophy.

Saint Paul had quoted Aratus when he preached to the Athenians from Mars Hill

Meantime western Europe had remnants of the Ptolemaic system left, but the dim light of monasteries was not sufficient to let the scholars see inaccuracies. Saint Paul had quoted Aratus when he preached to the Athenians from Mars Hill, but Aratus had believed that the world was round, and that was a little fact which Saint Paul forgot to mention.

The Renaissance is commonly supposed to have started with the fall of Constantinople in 1453, but long before that the monks had recovered some of the old books from the Arabians. In the eleventh century and throughout the twelfth, wandering scholars were traveling to Italy and Spain where the Moors had brought what was left of ancient science back into Europe. They owned a heterogeneous collection of books. The fleeing students from Alexandria in the first centuries of the Christian epoch had taken with them only such volumes as they could not live without, never dreaming that their great storehouse would be burned in the Arab invasion, and eight hundred years passed before even those books returned to Europe. But the European monks were never at a loss to piece together what they had, though they were slow enough in adding anything new. These books over which they worked were the Latin translations of the Arabian translations of the Syriac translations of the Greek originals. They had been known in Europe for over a hundred years before the first European scholar even suggested that he might find the Greek texts and study them instead. But the scholars managed somehow to resurrect the Ptolemaic system. In 1256, a Yorkshire student named John Holy-wood published a book on spherical astronomy which was received with applause throughout Europe, and was reprinted fifty-nine times after the invention of the printing press.

With the fall of Constantinople still more of the classics came into popular circulation. Men had relearned the Greek language in Europe, and some of the older writers came into fashion to displace the writings of Ptolemy and Aristotle which had held undisputed sway for so long a time. Apian, in 1540, still accepted the Ptolemaic system, with its stationary, spherical Earth, but there were whispers abroad, and he must have heard them for there are faint echoes in his works:

"Controversies have arisen as to whether the first point of the ecliptic (which is divided into 12 signs) should be put into the eighth, ninth, or tenth sphere."

and a little later:

"The second chapter teaches, if I mistake not, the movements of the eighth, ninth and tenth spheres."

The heliocentric theory was in the air; and three years after Apian's book was published, the whisper turned into a roar. Some fifty years before, in Rome, a secret group of men who called themselves "Pythagoreans" had been seriously questioning the stationary Earth, and to Italy in 1496, went a young Polish student whose name was Nicolaus Copernicus. His book was published in 1543, and a few years later the works of the first master of the heliocentric theory were also republished and Aristarchus had his laugh at long last.

Once the Copernican system was accepted by a few scholars, its progress was rapid, both along the lines laid down by its own premises, and in the new fields of inquiry which it opened up. In 1796, Laplace announced his famous "nebular hypothesis." Earlier cosmologists had taken the analogies for the Earth's creation from eggs and trees and the creation of life they saw about them. Laplace, in the spirit of his times, chose for analogy a chemical process. As crystals form out of solutions on nuclei that already exist, so do solar systems form on existing nuclei by condensations of the gases that fill space. According to Laplace, the nuclei become separated from other similar formations, and each nebula as it grows larger draws to itself the gases from a larger and larger area. Eventually they break apart and when the break comes, each nebula becomes to a greater extent self-contained, and large volumes of space almost devoid of matter exist between them.

In this way a continuous attraction is in process; the nebulae not only attract the outside matter, but exert an attraction within themselves, gradually shrinking in size; and as they shrink they begin to rotate, going slowly at first, then faster and faster, like giant whirlpools of matter, big enough to suck all the surrounding ocean into their midst, until there is nothing left except the whirling masses about their centers. Once this motion is started, it continues, and as they grow smaller and smaller they go faster and faster (following the law of the conservation of angular momentum) until finally they assume a coherent shape in the form of a lens.

But as their velocity increases, a counter motion sets in, and the smaller nuclei which have been attracted to the main one, are thrown off by centrifugal force, still whirling around the center, but carrying on an independent rotation of their own at the same time; again smaller nuclei are split off, creating motion within motion, each separate particle circulating around the one from which it was thrown, and each group still revolving around the center of the whole system.

If this history be granted, the effects can be deduced. The main nuclei become separated by vast distances and each nebula becomes an island of its own, as it were, like the Sun and the solar system. Several centers form like the planets, and around them are others, now moons or satellites, all more or less in one plane, and all rotating in the same direction.

Various other happenings occur as well. These gaseous masses cool off more rapidly as their sizes decrease, so that the planets became solid long before the central mass of the Sun grew cool enough to solidify, and the satellites cooled off before the planets. All bodies and, to a greater extent, gases, contract as they grow cold; and therefore spin faster. Any one of them in a semi-solid state might become unstable and fly to pieces. Such a celestial catastrophe seems to have overcome one planet, and as a result the asteroids were formed.

In the same way any of the satellites might burst into fragments at a certain stage. The particles would disperse, but stay within the range of the planet; hence the rings of Saturn.

Many of the facts which we know qualitatively are explained by this theory, and for about a century it was generally accepted; but keen mathematical analysis has found serious flaws, and there is one really disturbing factor. Instead of rotating more or less parallel to the ecliptic, the axis of Uranus is very nearly at right angles to it. Also there are a few small satellites that go around the wrong way. These might be strays, picked up by a planet and permanently attached.

It is easy to exonerate Aristotle

It is easy to exonerate Aristotle. We can say that he only lent his weight to one side of the scales which had been about evenly balanced, that he did it with purer logic than Plato, and that he could not know how abruptly Greek science was to perish, leaving only the most persistent doctrines to the succeeding ages. The fact remains that the scales were tipped, the course of astronomy was set back for two thousand years, and the scientific Aristotle is the arch villain in the story.

The heliocentric theory flickered on for a while in Plato's academy, but the voices of science were too much for it. Archimedes was practical enough to set fire to the Roman ships with a burning glass, and impractical enough to run naked through the streets of Syracuse, shouting, "Eureka," when he succeeded in another famous experiment; but even he criticized and rejected the theory of Aristarchus with scorn. "If the Earth were really moving around the Sun," he asserted, "the apparent position of the stars would change." His arguments sounded well, but he had forgotten his predecessor's view of distance. To a man driving through the mountains, the near-by scenery constantly varies; but to a man turning in small circles a hundred miles away, the mountains are as invariable as the stars are to us.

Mark Twain, in his autobiography, told of a lie which he perpetrated in his boyhood, and tried many times afterward to contradict, only to be told by others that they knew better. It has been said that a lie never lives, but Mark Twain ended by saying that he was very glad he did not have life-insurance premiums to pay on the lie which he had told.

The life of Mark Twain's lie was relatively short. At least he was able to prove the contrary before his death, and no one else suffered. Aristarchus had no such luck. He laughs best who laughs last; but for that final triumph Aristarchus had to wait more than two thousand years.

The arguments for a stationary Earth were given by Claudius Ptolemy in 150 A. D. He argued that, if the Earth were rotating, objects would fly off into space. "Matter which is in violent rotation does not seem fit to be massed together, but rather dispersed." He added that long before his time the Earth would have been dissipated over the heavens themselves; furthermore a stone dropped to Earth would not reach its destined place as the Earth would have moved from under it.

All Ptolemy's arguments, except the last, have been proved wrong by later scientists. Curiously Ptolemy was right that a stone would not reach its appointed place, but for just the opposite reason from the one Ptolemy stated. The experiment has been proved by stones dropped carefully down a deep vertical mine shaft. In not a single case did they reach the bottom; they continued to move eastward during their fall with a velocity equal to the velocity of the Earth's surface from which they started, but the mine shaft some 4,000 to 5,000 feet below was revolving more slowly, and in every case the stone struck the east side of the shaft before it reached the bottom.

Claudius Ptolemy was the last of the great astronomers, and his work survived when all the others were lost or burned in the religious fires of persecution. His theory was ingenious, remarkably useful in spite of its falsity, the result of careful observation and accurate mathematics. But it was exceedingly complicated. He held that the Earth was spherical but stationary, and that all the stars and planets revolved around the Earth in circular orbits at uniform velocities. They were situated in ten vast crystal spheres, perfectly transparent, and each sphere had its own special motion. The first seven were for the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Apian, in 1540, described the other three:

"It is known to all that outside the seven orbits of the wandering stars, three spheres exist beyond them, namely the eighth, in which are the fixed stars, the ninth again beyond that and the tenth, which is the last.

"The tenth sphere revolves from east to west in 24 hours, as appears daily to our eyes. We see then how the Sun and other stars (which follow one another very rapidly) rise and set.

"The ninth sphere rises in the west and travels to the zenith in the direction opposite to that of the tenth and makes its revolution in 49,000 years.

"In the middle of this course, we imagine the ecliptic. . . .

"In this ecliptic of the ninth sphere, you can place the 12 signs if you like, but they have no use, except the first point of Aries . . .

"Understand that the eighth sphere is under the ninth (whose center the ecliptic sometimes occupies) . . . .

"The Equinoctial is equidistant from both poles and its surface bisects the whole mechanism of the world. Leaving the eighth sphere, we go through it to the tenth sphere. There, at last, I have shown the true ecliptic."

Ptolemy added yet further complications, such as epicycles at the first point of Aries and Libra, and the Arabians added trepidation as an extra decoration to a system already sufficiently involved. The three outer spheres were particularly designed to show the motion of precession and the separation of the signs of the zodiac from the constellations which bore the same names.

The Ptolemaic theory suited the intricate minds of the Orient. The Greeks had adopted science from the east in the first place, and purified it with their logic. The east was ready and willing to welcome it back. Therefore when the heretic Christians, who insisted on studying science, took their books under their arms and fled into Persia, the eastern countries accepted their theories at least; and the Ptolemaic system grew up in an atmosphere where angels and devils inhabited the spheres of the planets, and dragons still caused eclipses of the Sun and the Moon. The books brought from Greece were translated not only into the various languages of their new homes, but into accord with the doctrines which their new masters loved.

In spite of its false basis, and curiously fantastic surroundings, the Ptolemaic theory did not altogether suffer in the hands of the Easterners. Their very love of intricacy led scientists to perfect instruments of great precision, and their calculations were amazingly accurate. At the highest point of Ptolemaic astronomy, the Arabians could approximate the movements of the planets; and, if they needed greater refinement, they obtained it with the aid of epicycles and eccentrics. The mean motion of the planets was determined with errors of only minutes of arc in centuries of time, and eclipses of the Moon were found with errors not exceeding one and one-half hours in seventeen hundred years. Working with a premise that was basically false, without telescopes, verniers, or chronometers to correct their measurements, the Ptolemaic astronomers achieved the most extraordinary precision.

Reflection was a Hindu notion too

That was a daring theory, which led its followers into many false paths. There might be a central fire around which the Earth revolves, and of which the Sun is only a reflection. Reflection was a Hindu notion too, and the Pythagoreans may have heard an echo of it. In addition they had the motions of the Moon for analogy-the Earth might revolve around something which our side never saw. Then there might be another body like the Earth--a dark planet. These suggestions sound preposterous, but, for the first time in the history of the world, the Pythagoreans and the atomists between them had reached the conclusion that the Earth moves, and the mistakes due to a great number of erroneous additions cannot deprive them of that glory.

The wonder is that they were not all put to death for what they said, but the idea was cradled in Italy, and by the time it came to Athens that city was ready to receive it kindly, due to the influence of the times in general, and of one man in particular, the philosopher--Plato. Modest, charming and always open to new views, Plato accepted the hypothesis as something which should at least be taken into consideration. "The Earth our nurse goes to and fro on its axis which stretches right through the universe," he wrote, putting the words into the mouth of a Pythagorean with due credit. Sixty years before, even Plato would have been put to death for mentioning a theory like that, and neither his great influence nor the love of the Athenian people could have saved him. But time's had changed since the days of Anaxagoras, and Plato himself had done much to alter them. His beloved master had been condemned to death on a false charge of corrupting the youth and dabbling with impious science; and Plato had used all his artistic gift to clear the name of Socrates and at the same time to open wide the path for scientific investigation. How well he succeeded is shown by the reception given to this new planetary theory.

The doctrines for which Plato fought were accepted, partly because his authority was so great, partly because his prose was so magically persuasive, very little (it is to be feared) because they were true. Many of his own ideas, such as the direction in which the planets moved, were never again seriously doubted, but the things he allowed to fight for themselves died a rapid death. In his old age, he repented that he had not laid more stress upon the place of the Earth among the planets. That is one of the few things which he had good reason to repent; for ironically it was Plato's greatest pupil, Aristotle, who went back to the old theory and claimed that the Earth was the center of the universe.

In Plato's academy, some time after his death, Aristarchus of Samos identified the central fire with the Sun, and said that the Earth went round it with a circular orbit. He further argued that, as the stars appear (in spite of their diurnal motion) to retain fixed places in the heavens, they must be at immeasurably great distances from the Earth. "The distances," he said, "bear the same relation to the Earth's orbit, as the radius of a sphere bears to its center." No one had ever come nearer to saying that the whole solar system was a mere point in the immensity of the heavens. But alas for the truth! By that time Aristotle had effectively criticized the theories of his old teacher, and neither Aristarchus nor anyone else could hold weight against so heavy an authority.

The scientific mind of Aristotle in all other realms is unquestioned. His treatise on logic has served as a clearing house for befuddled ideas ever since, and in biology he was superb. But Alexander the Great could send his old schoolteacher rare fishes from the Tigris and the Indus and the Arabian Sea, so Aristotle had genuine data with which to work; not even Alexander could send him a working model of the solar system. He had to guess, and he guessed wrong.

We can imagine the lines of argument as the peripatetic followers of Aristotle walked up and down through the groves of the Lyceum. "It is obvious that the Earth does not revolve or we should feel it. Only an impractical philosopher would say such a thing." And Aristotle would be mildly reproving when his master was too severely criticized by anyone but himself. "We Platonists used to say that the Earth moved; but," he would add seriously, "I think that we were wrong." Then the voices would go on and on now that Aristotle had conceded the point. "Something must stand still, and certainly the heavens don't. This idea that the Earth is moving is perfectly ridiculous. Why if we were revolving we'd fall off when we got to the other side." On and on with all the other palpable, obvious, plain and clearly apparent reasons, by which those who do not know, and are not able to prove their point, try to convince their listeners that they are wise, sticking to fact, and that what they say is axiomatically true.

The dire effects of the Tower of Babel

In spite of Biblical records, and the dire effects of the Tower of Babel, the mountaineers did manage to build numerous ziggurats in the image of their universe. To increase the semblance of mountains the wide-terraced steps were planted with trees and grass. Modern excavators have found the drain holes used for watering, and the little temples at the side of the ziggurats were crushed by trunks falling on them from above. No wonder the story has come down to us in the form of "The Hanging Gardens of Babylon"--one of the Seven Wonders of the World. But Babylon was not the only city that could boast a mountain rising from its flat plain. The ziggurat of Nabu at Barsipki was called "The House of the Seven Bonds of Heaven and Earth." It was built in seven stages to represent the seven planets, and painted in the several planetary colors. These seven planets combined to form the yoke of the ecliptics, solar and lunar, and the whole was surmounted by an altar, which bore the horns of the equinoctial bull. Even so far away from home the mountaineers insisted on worshiping gods from their pinnacle of the universe.

Perhaps the dissension among the builders of the Tower of Babel was responsible; certainly the doctrine of the four-square Earth is found in distant countries. In Egypt, it is represented by the pyramids. In later times, Egyptian architecture was rather more oblong than square, with the greater length running from north to south to fit the shape of the Nile Valley. It is to be found in India, surrounding the mountain Meru, about which the Sun and Moon and all the planets moved. As far away as Greece, Xenophanes taught the doctrine that "the motion of the celestial bodies is rectilineal, the circular forms of their daily paths being only an illusion caused by great distance."

Yet gradually the corners of the universe softened. The nostalgia of the mountaineers died away. First eight corners were substituted to allow further complications in theory, then sixteen, and from there it was no very far step to a perfect circle. In the same manner the angular roofs of the columned Parthenon gave way to the Norman arch and the Byzantine dome, and the ziggurats themselves curved into our church spires. The architecture may or may not be a strict analogy, but at least it followed far more slowly the same development. The minds of men created both their theory of the universe, and their places of worship in imitation of what they saw about them.

The mythological stories of the world arose early and survived only in more primitive minds. By the time of Pythagoras the Greek scientists were pulling apart the old theories and trying to find some more satisfactory explanation. Between myth and science stretches a great gap, but without myths to criticize, science could never have arisen.

Gradually, as the vision of the Earth widened out, as traveling became more possible, and as perspective assumed different proportions, no one race could be quite sure that it stood in the center of creation, nor that their wise men alone knew the antiquity of history. A grave blow was dealt to every egotist when the Egyptian priest looked at the lawmaker of Athens and said pityingly, "Oh, Solon, Solon, you Greeks are only children," and then proceeded to describe the marvelous kingdom of Atlantis of which the Greeks had never heard. It was a blow, but the kind that a Greek could accept and wonder about. For a long time the advanced scientists had known that the Earth was a sphere, whose surface has no exact center, and that all other places were equal to Greece-if not in culture and climate--at least in position. But all men thought that the Earth was the hub of the universe. Then one day, in the school of Pythagoras, where atomism and mathematics were both studied, someone had the temerity to suggest that perhaps the Sun did not move around the Earth. Perhaps the Earth moved around the Sun.

"WONDER," said Aristotle, in the first chapter of his book on Metaphysics

"WONDER," said Aristotle, in the first chapter of his book on Metaphysics, "the origin of all philosophy is wonder." It was a word the Greeks loved to use, and it had the same duofold meaning for them that it has for us--admiration and awe, coupled with curiosity. Every primitive man knew it in both senses; for as he began to marvel at the place in which he found himself, he began to construct theories about the form of the universe and its origin.

For the creation myths there are the egg theories, scattered from Phoenicia to Peru; and almost immediately after the egg is broken, it is found to have both a yolk and a white. Dualism arises early. Sometimes the opposition merely reflects family life; from Northwest American Indians to Greeks, nephews fight their uncles, and one or the other steals fire and light to give to mankind as a weapon against darkness. Or it is the fight of man against nonman, dragons and demons and devils. Most of these legends have their astronomical counterparts, and undoubtedly the myths and the studies of the heavens grew up together, each furnishing the other with symbols and stories. Only late in cosmological stories did "reason" appear as an influence--only when the mind of man had grown rich enough to allow such a profound thought. The idea came from India originally and found its way throughout the civilized world until Saint John the Divine took it from the Greeks, and furnished a new conception for the Biblical God of the Hebrews: "In the beginning was Reason, and Reason was with God, and Reason was God."

For the shape of the universe there is always the round disc at first--the location of the inventor in the exact center; the universe around him, and an ocean to bear it up. But that theory can go on indefinitely in one direction only. Something must hold up the ocean so there is a tortoise to carry it on his back; he in turn floats on a sea of milk, and as imagination grows firmer and stronger, more beasts appear, each below the other, like a pyramid of acrobatic circus animals, until at last the Sanskrit peoples brought the whole structure toppling to the ground with a single reductio ad absurdum. The elephant, they said, was the basic animal, and he needed nothing to stand upon, because his legs were long enough to reach all the way down. After that, cosmological theories had to follow some other track.

Whether or not man was created in the image of the universe, at least he tried to copy the universe in all his creations. When the mountaineers, living about Babylon, descended upon the plains, they brought with them the idea that the universe was shaped just like a mountain, only more perfectly made, so that its corners were pointed to the equinoxes. And after the habit of wandering peoples (their imagination no doubt fostered by homesickness) they told the lowlanders that the mountains whence they came had reached up to the sky; and they deprecated that here there were no hills on which to place the altars for their gods.

Accordingly they started to build just such mountains in their new surroundings, making ziggurats in the form of step pyramids, set to the cardinal points of the Earth. "And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth." There were no stones along the TigrisEuphrates Valley, but they made bricks by mixing straw with mud and burned them thoroughly. They used slime for mortar. It was a magnificent conception, but of course the local inhabitants failed to understand these newcomers with their boasting and strange ideas. "This they begin to do: said the Lord, and now nothing will be restrained from them. . . . Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city."

Ever since the astrologers turned their science to the pecuniary benefit of the individual

Ever since the astrologers turned their science to the pecuniary benefit of the individual, there have been men to fight against them.

Bitter and sarcastic Isaiah hurled his diatribe against the woman of Babylon:

"Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth; if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail.

"Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee.

"Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them."

In vain Isaiah prophesied destruction; in vain Cicero's eloquence was showered upon the Roman senate; in vain, centuries later, Savonarola harangued the congregations of Florence. Where threatened disaster would not prevail, neither would scholarship nor theology. Then in the end of 1707, Dean Jonathan Swift took up the cause.

Under the title, "Predictions for the year 1708, by Isaac Bickerstaff Esq.", Swift published a satire on the Almanack-makers, in which he made bold to say:

"My first prediction is but a trifle, yet I will mention it to shew how ignorant those sottish pretenders to astrology are in their own concerns; it relates to Partridge the Almanackmaker. I have consulted the star of his nativity by my own rules and find that he will infallibly die upon the 29th of March next, about eleven at night, of a raging fever; therefore advise him to consider of it, and settle his affairs in time."

This terrible prediction was answered by a person of quality who resented the frolic which Mr. Bickerstaff had had at the expense of all and sundry, gave instances of many people who had died by mere force of suggestion, and ventured a prophecy on his own account:

"For though I am no astrologer I may venture to say that Isaac Bickerstaff Esquire is now dead, and died just at the time his predictions were ready for press; that he dropped out of a cloud about nine days ago, and, in about four hours after, mounted up thither like a vapour."

To this sally Swift took no notice, but he proceeded to pen a "Letter to a Person of Honor" by an unknown friend, recounting the sad death of Mr. Partridge, who (he said) died not at the hour foretold, but a good four hours earlier on the same day.

The whole thing was too much for Partridge, who was still very much alive. With the help of a friend he issued a letter in his almanack for 1709, complaining that he could not open the window without finding the sexton outside, nor walk down the street without being hounded by coffin-makers. He was certain that the whole thing was a popish plot of international scope, and that through his side all learning was threatened.

To which tirade, Swift, alias Isaac Bickerstaff, replied:

"Mr. Partridge has been lately pleased to treat me after a very rough manner. To call a man a fool and a villain, an impudent fellow, only for differing from him in a point merely speculative, is, in my humble opinion, a very improper style for a person of his education. . . . I wish Mr. Partridge knew the thoughts which foreign universities have conceived of his ungenerous proceedings with me; but I am too tender of his reputation to publish them to the world."

This noble example of consideration was followed by five different proofs of Partridge's death beginning with the statement that over a thousand men had looked at Partridge's almanack and cried out, "No man alive could write such stuff as this!" and ending with the objection that the continued publication of the almanack was no proof, for several men "do yearly publish their almanacks, and they have been dead since before the revolution."

"When the end of the year had verified all my predictions, out comes Mr. Partridge's almanack, disputing the point of his death; so that I am employed, like the general who was forced to kill his enemies twice over, whom a necromancer had raised to life. If Mr. Partridge has practised the same experiment upon himself and be again alive, long may he continue so; that does not in the least contradict my veracity."

What sermons and harangues and logic had failed to do, this satire of Jonathan Swift's accomplished. No one in England dared to consult the astrologers for fear of ridicule. It had very nearly laughed them off the face of the Earth.

Most sincere men in the fields of astrology and alchemy

The most sincere men in the fields of astrology and alchemy were neither fools nor charlatans. Roger Bacon was one, Albertus Magnus was another. Both were called sorcerers and magicians, and a third, whose personal life is almost unknown, managed to gather to himself all the tales of evil life and retribution which the imagination of the fifteenth century could produce. His name was Faust. In both the Goethe poem and the Rembrandt etching the symbol of the macrocosm figures largely beside the portrait of the man. These three, and all the other men who were great enough to become associated with the devil of earthly speculation, were the precursers of the new sciences. Alchemy and astrology were but two possible sciences not yet proved false.

Because they dealt with personal futures and fortunes, the men who went about prophesying were more open to temptation than other scientists who were otherwise neither better nor worse. There has never been any pecuniary gain for a prophet who told only the movements of the planets among the stars, as all astronomers can testify; but there were powerful patrons to pay a fortunate astrologer. In Rome the word of the soothsayers sent the market skyrocketing or dropped it with a bang. During the fifteenth century any evil report of France was sure to be well rewarded in England, and kings refused to go to war, except with the consent of the court astrologers--a custom which Sir Arthur Eddington in his radio talk to the English-Speaking Union suggested as highly desirable today!

From the time of Nebuchadnezzar "the magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers," had come and stood before the kings. Undoubtedly they knew what prophecy would bring the highest reward. But the most sincere and most reasonable of them had bases for all they said. There was a carefully thought out method in their madness. It was as if one of the side issues in the featherstitching of science had gone off and decided to become a pattern all by itself, with hardly a reference to the parent line. Astrology was a false science, but it proceeded scientifically.

Why it was so thoroughly believed, we cannot say; possibly because of the reason given by Henry IV of England centuries ago. "One of these days," he said, "I am going to die; and all the astrologers, who have been forecasting my death, will be proved right, and all the hundreds of things they have prophesied wrongly will be forgotten." That had a lot to do with the belief, but why it remains credible today is even more of a puzzle.

The movement of precession has separated the constellations and the signs so far that a man born on the twenty-first of March is, strictly speaking, under the constellation of Pisces. True, his sign is the sign of Aries, as the astrologers point out; but the sign is a manmade practical division which corresponds to absolutely nothing within the heavens themselves. Then too, with the proof that the Earth moves and is but one of the planets, men can no longer say that Earth and heaven are the two ultimate divisions of the universe, nor that the counterpart of each can be found in the other. Nevertheless some new discoveries in astronomy have been twisted ingeniously by the astrologers. "No wonder perfect results were not gained in the old days," an astrologer will tell you with apparent sincerity, "only five of the nine planets were known. With this supplementary knowledge our science would be perfect if only astrologers were in better agreement."

Today we know that there was no transmutation taking place

By partly roasting galena with access of air and then raising the temperature with exclusion of air, the brittle useless metal galena can be converted into the useful base metal lead. Now if this base metal is heated on a bone ash cupel, which can absorb the litharge which is formed, all the lead disappears and there is left a small amount of precious metal--silver. This precious metal when treated with spirits of nitre (nitric acid) in many cases leaves a small residue of a metal still more precious--gold.

This simple piece of metallurgy, translated into the terms of an alchemist ran thus: "You see before you a piece of galena, useless and valueless. By my art I can transmute it into lead which is useful but base. If I put the lead into a cupel and reheat it, I will transmute it into silver, and then if the silver be treated with spirits of nitre, we will transmute it into gold. Of course," the alchemist would add, "we have a good deal less gold in the end, than we had galena in the beginning--but you must realize that our science is not yet perfected--perhaps if we had a little more money to spend on equipment--?" But it was not all charlatanry. By their lights the alchemists were right; certainly they started with the useless and ended with the precious, but their balances were crude, and the quantitative relationships between the raw materials and the products were not considered sufficiently important.

They did obtain gold as the last stage in a process of transmutation from galena. But it would need more than equipment to produce an equal quantity of their most precious metal from their most useless. There is twenty per cent less lead than there was galena, ninety-nine per cent less silver than there was lead, and ninety per cent less gold than there was silver. When quantities were totally ignored, what did it matter?

Today we know that there was no transmutation taking place, that galena is an ore of lead, and that lead often contains both silver and gold. We know too that galena from some mines contains more silver and gold than that from other mines. The percentage of lead obtainable from pure galena is the same in all cases.

Alchemy persists. A substantial smelter was built on the theory that more gold can be obtained from ores than is shown in the fire assays--which, by tests innumerable, has been shown to be capable of extracting all but a very minute percentage of the gold in ore. It is our belief that the new smelter was built with the idea that it can transform some of the baser metals into gold.

The Chanouns Yemannes Tale is an excellent commentary on the trickery of alchemists, and they have always been open to the charge of charlatanry; but so have the forerunners of all science. Many sincerely believed that chemical changes were possible, and later they made notable advances in metallurgy and chemistry, developing new drugs which have been a great boon and help in easing pain and prolonging life.

Their belief in the transmutation of metals may have been unjustified, but just as the microcosm and the macrocosm have received a sudden proof in the field of atoms and planets, so the transmutation of metals has been discovered in recent years through the radio-active elements.

Each planet was the indicator of certain diseases

What combination of circumstances brought forth each prediction we do not know. The original coincidences have been lost and all that remains are the series of intricate tabulations and data, as curious and as arbitrary as the signs read on tea leaves, or the fortunes ascribed to numbers.

Each planet was the indicator of certain diseases, most of which are associated with the part of the body of which that planet was ruler. When a planet was within fifteen degrees of the Sun, it was still within reach of its emanations, but when within twelve degrees it became burnt and useless. A planet was entirely devoid of power when its motion appeared to be retrograde. The Moon was powerless when in the Milky Way. The planets were at the height of their power in the fifth, seventh, tenth and eleventh houses. They were weak in the sixth, eighth and twelfth, but the ruler of those houses portended evil to all with whom he shared an aspect.

The houses of the heavens were allotted to specialities. The first belongs to the questioner or client, and the fourth to medicine, in which house a practitioner may read whether the medicine will be alleviating to the patient.

For casting the horoscope of the disease the Moon must be set to the place in the zodiac where it was at the hour of attack. The times of crises will come when the Moon is in quadrature or opposition, and the intermediate symptomatic days can be found in a similar manner.

After finding the time of crises, the doctor must make out a map of the heavens:

"If you see the Moon hampered, everything contrary and unpropitious, you will decide that nature will succumb to disease."

That sounds like extraordinarily bad psychology, but:

"The contrary would be the case if the Moon was connected only with more favorable planets and fixed stars."

And what ill-omened illness cast the doctors in ill repute so that certain combinations would curse their business forever?

"When the map of the sky at the beginning of the disease has been set up, the seventh house must be examined carefully and if a malignant planet is located there, or if a planet there catches the emanations of a malignant planet, the ruler of the house will be unpropitious and as the ruler of the seventh house is the significator of the doctor, it is seen that he will suffer, so the patient will take care that the present doctor is discharged and another one found."

Was that restriction originally made so that the patient would have reason to dismiss a man whose bedside manner was disagreeable; just as the doctors were careful to add the following as an excuse for themselves?

"The times of distant crises are apt to change, not only because of the stars, as we have been hearing, but for other reasons, which are numbered as six by the doctors, as these lines show:

"'The times of crises are changed we're aware By causes, strength, symptoms, stars, medicine and care.'"

After all, the poor physicians had to have some way out if the unexpected happened.

The planets were not only represented by colors and flowers and parts of the body, but by metals as well.

"The bodies sevene eek, lo. hem heer anoon
Sol gold is, and Luna silver we threpe,
Mars yren, Mercuries quik-silver we clepe,
Saturnus leed, and Jupiter is tin,
And Venus coper by my fader kin!"

Thus Chaucer describes them in Chanoun Yemannes Tale, which is the story of an alchemist whose intentions were none too good. Alchemy was not always a device to fool the ignorant. It was a half-science, closely allied to astrology, and no more irrational. Just as the men and heavens were thought to be made in the same pattern so all metals were thought to have a common base, something a bit like the soul of quicksilver, but a more subtle quicksilver than was known, which when touched with something like sulphur, only a more philosophic sulphur, would produce any metal. The alchemists searched for this omnisolvent which would dissolve everything into this original soulful state (how they meant to keep it when they had it, if it would dissolve every kind of container they do not tell), and they sought the Philosopher's Stone, the elixir of life, not only to transmute the soul of quicksilver into gold, but to give mortals an indefinite span of years.

Such aims, if sincere, sound incredible, but they were no more absurd than the mythical Fountain of Youth which led Ponce de Leon to make his wonderful explorations in southeast America; and for the transmutation of metals there was a real basis.